3D Panning from Merging rings a Bell
Canada’s leading multimedia company is planning for the future
Puidoux, October 2016: The topic of immersive or 3D audio has captured a lot of headlines recently, but how is this relevant to broadcast? The success of Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D and other cinema formats has stimulated the public’s appetite for a more involving sound experience and sooner or later, this has to have an impact on broadcasting. A number of broadcasters have already stated that some form of object based audio would be the preferred option in the future, but this was in the absence of any defined standard. Canada’s leading multimedia company, Bell Media decided that preparing for future possibilities was extremely important. Getting used to what was possible and practical with the introduction of height channels was not something that could be left to chance, so in March 2015, a special mixing room was created to evaluate what could be achieved. The Dolby Atmos workflow is well defined and provides a route to an object based, multi-speaker end result. The real question was finding a practical solution to record the program and do the post-production. Bell Media owned CTV has been using Merging Technologies’ Ovation Audio Server for a number of years and the operators were familiar with Pyramix being the preparation tool. The upcoming versions of Pyramix and Ovation were planned to include an effective 3D panning solution that seemed to offer what was needed.
Michael Nunan, Bell Media’s Senior Manager for Broadcast Audio and Post Production Operations is leading this project and declares that the main goal is to understand the aesthetic more than the technology. It is essential to understand how ‘more than 5.1 systems’ with height information can best serve the pictures. If UHD pictures with extended audio is to be part of a premium offering to the public, it must offer clear benefits to the subscriber.
The publication of the ATSC 3.0 standard has now occurred with Dolby’s AC4 as a practical way to deliver immersive audio. Canada is not bound to follow that standard yet, but for practical reasons, it would be surprising if that decision is not ratified in the near future. ATSC 3.0 has added a little more urgency to the program since it gives a clear target to aim for.
The room was set up using beta versions of Pyramix and Ovation but it was already clear that Merging was offering a package that was far in advance of other DAW manufacturers. The Pyramix 10/Ovation 6 releases plus the latest refinements and the addition of a 3D mouse is “game changing” according to Nunan. “Our experience with plug in solutions on other DAWs had been very disappointing and we were looking for something intuitive and immediate. Any increase in production cost needs to be minimised, so clunky technology is not what we need. Merging are offering something robust and consistent already and although we have a number of practical hurdles to overcome before this is a commercially viable solution, this is by far the best system we have seen to date. The fact that we already have had a great experience with Ovation during these past years, gives us the confidence that Merging will continue to develop these tools.”
Another attraction of the Merging solution is that it is format agnostic in the sense that the speaker configuration can be anything you want. This means that it not only copes with any existing delivery format, but it can also adapt to any future changes. It is already clear that Bell Media will need to export programs in MPEG-H and in other formats for Japan, for example. Furthermore, Bell Media has invested heavily in Lawo consoles for its major facilities, so Merging’s adoption of the RAVENNA/AES67 Audio over IP technology fits perfectly into the studio infrastructure.
This experiment is not confined to the lab and has already been used for parallel recordings of some prestigious sporting events and awards ceremonies, where very high track counts were used as well as the 3D elements. This has already proven that it not only works, but also there was no major budget overhead with this mode of operation. Practical experience gained in real production environments will be a hugely valuable step in getting a fast and smooth start when UHD kicks off. Michael Nunan further remarked; “We know we have some way to go to make this a completely practical everyday solution, but having this panner now makes it feasible for us to make a meaningful evaluation. We need to trust what we are hearing and Merging has already delivered the tool that achieves that. There is another plus in that we enjoy working with the Merging team and the guys from HHB Canada. They listen rather than just try to sell you things!”
Merging Technologies SA is a Swiss manufacturer with over 25 years of experience in developing groundbreaking, professional Audio and Video products for a wide range of entertainment and media industries. With a dedicated user base in the elite end of the music, film, television, mastering and performances industries, Merging is committed to developing product ranges with unrivalled quality and flexibility, no matter what the application. Merging builds tools for people who want more from their systems, have an inherent need to push boundaries, and believe that quality always comes first.
RAVENNA is a solution for real-time distribution of audio and other media content in IP-based network environments. Utilizing standardized network protocols and technologies, RAVENNA can operate on existing network infrastructures. RAVENNA is designed to meet the strict requirements of the pro audio market featuring low latency, full signal transparency and high reliability and is fully AES67 compatible. With a capacity of nearly 8 x MADI streams over a single Gigabit Ethernet link, it is also the first and only Layer-3 based IP audio protocol with full support for high-channel count DXD and DSD signals.
While primarily targeting the professional broadcast market, RAVENNA is also suitable for deployment in other pro audio market segments like live sound, install market and recording. Possible fields of application include (but are not limited to) in-house signal distribution in broadcasting houses, theatres, concert halls and other fixed installations, flexible setups at venues and live events, OB van support, inter-facility links across WAN connections and in production & recording applications. http://ravenna.alcnetworx.com